Lining up to get into a store could be riskier for COVID than shopping: Winnipeg epidemiologist

Shoppers back at Polo Park Mall in Winnipeg, MB on January 23 - the first day of eased restrictions.
Shoppers back at Polo Park Mall in Winnipeg, MB on January 23 - the first day of eased restrictions. Global News

With pandemic restrictions eased slightly, and shoppers returning en masse to many of Winnipeg’s malls, a local epidemiologist says in many cases, standing in line to get into a store can put you at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than being in the store itself.

“I was concerned,” Cynthia Carr of EPI Research told 680 CJOB.

“Not in the sense of people going in, getting their items, and going out, or with the safety that we clearly see the retailers working hard with capacity and cleanliness. My concern is that when you’re inside in a mall and you’re standing in a lineup outside the store, that is a chokepoint, so you want to be really careful how long you’re in a lineup for, keeping your distance, keeping a mask on.

“When you’re in the store, you’re moving around getting your items. The lengthier (amount of time) you’re standing in line— remember about the science of the disease and how it spreads.”

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Carr said the lifting of restrictions is a good thing, provided Manitobans continue to be careful and cautious going forward. The numbers showing a continued drop in Winnipeg’s test positivity rate are also positive, but the situation in the northern part of the province is a deep concern, she added.

“It’s a vast region with many isolated, hard-to-reach communities,” she said, “counting for about six per cent of our population, but it counts for about half our active cases in the province right now — and a large percentage of northern residents in the hospital, which would mean probably needing to come to Winnipeg for that.

Read more: Hundreds of shoppers head to the mall as non-essential COVID-19 restrictions ease in Winnipeg

Separate out community members to keep those that aren’t infected safe, presents infrastructure challenges, she said.

“It’s certainly easier to restrict travel between communities … but there’s a lot of required travel in and out of communities.”

Click to play video 'Manitoba businesses prepare to reopen' Manitoba businesses prepare to reopen
Manitoba businesses prepare to reopen – Jan 22, 2021


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